We scoured the menus of area restaurants and spoke to their owners to find the most unique food around Pasadena, from meat-stuffed pretzels to pizza topped with a sauce made from yogurt and cucumbers. The Voice staff sought unique dishes that can’t be found anywhere else nearby — entrees and desserts with a twist.
Know of something we missed? Send a description of your favorite unique menu item to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for a future story.
Forget snails. Instead of escargot, Twain’s Tavern offers a menu item that is more pleasing to the average palate. These shrimp are sautéed in garlic and butter, and then topped with melted Havarti cheese.
How it started: Twain’s owners Tony and Laura Toskov were traveling 10 years ago when they saw a similar item on the menu at Kaluz Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We did a little twist on what they had and brought it back to the ‘Dena,” Tony said.
While the shrimp cargot comes as its own appetizer, it can also be ordered to go atop steak and other menu items.
This entrée features five jumbo shrimp sautéed with Andouille sausage, Tasso ham, fresh garlic, white wine and lemon butter sauce, served over smooth cheddar cheese grits.
How it started: The southern recipe was inspired by a dish that executive chef Mark Morgan found while traveling in the Carolinas. “When people hear grits, they kind of thumb their noses,” Morgan said. “We wanted to tweak it and create something that appealed to the masses. We use more milk cream, more cheese and more seasoning, and it has two great cured meats — the sausage and ham — that took me about a year to find.”
Ledo is already known for its outside-the-box take on pizza with square slices, but this style is extra special. The tzatziki pizza features carved gyro meat, roasted grape tomatoes, banana peppers, smoked provolone and feta cheese. Instead of the traditional red Ledo tomato sauce, this pizza features a Greek tzatziki sauce with yogurt, cucumber and olive oil — a perfect Mediterranean mix.
This Korean “fire meat” won’t literally set your mouth on fire, but it does pack a flavorful punch. The thinly sliced marinated ribeye steak is sautéed with mushrooms, scallions and onions.
Also try: The japchae (a sweet potato noodle dish stirred with vegetables and marinated ribeye steak) or fried chicken, which are battered, double fried, and hand-brushed with Bonchon’s signature soy garlic, spicy or sweet crunch sauces.
Soft pretzels are commonly topped with cinnamon, sugar, mustard or peanut butter, but at The Rumor Meal, it’s the inside that counts.
“It’s pretty unique as in you can get your choice of meat (bacon, sausage, chorizo or Canadian bacon), two scrambled eggs, and home fries — all of which fill the pretzel ‘holes’ so to speak,” said owner Terri Casalino. “Then we top it with mozzarella cheese. It is served with syrup.”
Also try: The funnel cake fries make for a good dessert.
What makes it unique: This answer is easy: the goat cheese. “It gives the cheese cake a lighter, fluffier flavor than a heavy cheese cake most are familiar with,” said Wesley Elchin, general manager of Pascal’s Chophouse. “It is drizzled with a fig balsamic reduction, and the sweetness of the fig and the tart of the balsamic complement each other perfectly while not taking away from the flavor of the cheese cake.”
Comfort food is commonly found on the menu at Founders, but no item is more unique than the hot brown, a combination of roasted turkey breast, sliced tomatoes and mornay sauce topped with sharp cheddar, parmesan, Founders’ slow-cured bacon crumble, and parsley. All these ingredients are served over country white toast, baked in a cast-iron skillet.
How it started: “Founders has become quite known for our major bourbon selection and this dish is a special tribute to the roots of bourbon country — Louisville, Kentucky — the bourbon capital of the world!” said Janet Sumner, co-owner of Founders. “It originated at The Brown Hotel in Louisville. The hot brown at Founders is our take on this ultimate comfort food dish, the most decadent open-faced turkey sandwich known to man!”
What makes it unique: Lisa’s Deli takes a loaf of bread, saws off the top to fill the inside with meat, cheese and veggies before replacing the top and toasting the whole sub.
These menu items are more traditional but equally flavorful.
This entrée has 8 ounces of skewered steak marinated for 24 hours in a signature Texas Roadhouse k-bob marinade. The steak is served over a bed of seasoned rice and a skewer or grilled vegetables: green peppers, red peppers, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms.
A new addition to the Texas Roadhouse menu, this 8-ounce marinated chicken breast is seared with a special seasoning blend, accompanied by a caramelized lemon and served with a choice of two homemade sides.
The boneless short rib is cooked all day at low temperature with lemongrass, soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic, making it tender and flavorful. Served on top white rice and Asian stir fried vegetables, the short rib is finished with Korean barbecue au jus. “It's an infusion food of east and west,” said Wesley Elchin, the general manager of Pascal’s Chophouse. “While most of our menu is not of this style, there are not many places that take something their grandparents are familiar with and giving it an Asian twist.”
It will surprise no one that an Italian restaurant serves mozzarella caprese. So what’s different about this caprese? It features homemade mozzarella to go with the other ingredients: tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
This light and fluffy cake is made with lemon curd and mascarpone, a soft Italian cream cheese.
When asked about the hot wings at The Office, general manager Sarah Root had to exercise caution; people may have been eavesdropping.
“I get asked 100 times a day what the secret recipe is,” she said. “A lot of salad dressings. It’s a mix between tang, with all those salad dressings, and a little bit of hot.”